Celebrating the best off-field leaders of the season.
June 23, 2023 by Jake Thorne, Alex Rubin and Patrick Stegemoeller in Awards with 0 comments
Each year, Ultiworld presents our annual College Awards. Our staff evaluates the individual performances of players from throughout the season, talking to folks around college ultimate, watching film, and look at statistics, voting upon the awards to decide those to be honored. The regular season and the college Series are both considered, with extra emphasis for performances in the competitive and high-stakes environment at Nationals.
Our final D-I award podium is for the Coaches of the Year. As so many teams have added more and more sideline-savvy consultants to their roster with less asked of a single head coach, this has essentially morphed into “Coaching Staff of the Year.” Coaches can impact the game in so many ways — tactics, motivation, communication, personnel management, program development, skill-building, etc. — and it can be hard to divine what exactly each has contributed to their team. But good coaching is something that we feel that ‘we know it when we see it.’
D-I Men’s 2023 Coaches Of The Year
Dylan Tunnell and Rusty Ingold-Smith (Massachusetts)
Dylan Tunnell and Rusty Ingold-Smith did more than just steer Masschusetts Zoodisc to the national final, they took them from a period of dramatic turbulence and underperformance to what now looks like one of the brightest futures for any program in the division. Absent from Nationals since 2018 despite having the talent to be a major player on the national stage, Zoodisc got to the cusp of a championship in the first year under the tutelage of Tunnell and Ingold-Smith.
There are plenty of things you can point at to explain UMass’ success this season, but the team’s depth has to be top of the list. Again and again you heard about how the team played through its entire roster (literally, every player took the field in the final against Darkside), and it takes a coaching staff dedicated to player development and trust to pull that off. Skills, tactical acumen, and comradery were high across the board for UMass, which doesn’t just happen by accident. It took Tunnell and Ingold-Smith expertly developing the roster from day one to get to the point where UMass could trust their entire roster with roles in the biggest moments.
Of course, Zoodisc wasn’t just a high floor team of nobodies. As the end of season awards demonstrate, there are plenty of elite individual performers on the squad as well. It speaks to the coaching job of Tunnell and Smith that they managed to strike the correct balance between letting their top players cook and spreading responsibility around. Managing egos, fitting players into the right spots, building trust across the roster to get everyone to buy into the approach, there are a lot of places this can go wrong. But as the results of the season demonstrate, the UMass brain trust nailed it.
Jake Smart (Brown)
It’s a classic cliché at this point, but no coaching staff maximizes the players on their roster better than the Brown mastermind of Jake Smart. Usually that phrase is meant to signify players in the depth part of the roster exceeded expectations, but the B-Mo team found a way to not just highlight the strengths of all of their players, but accentuate them. Neither Jacques Nissen nor Leo Gordon are considered depth, and they both had the best seasons of their career. Surrounding those two stars, the coaches found roles for smart fill cutters, zone defenders, crafty reset handlers, and simply hard-working players and helped Brown improve in each tournament this season, win the toughest region in the country, and challenge UNC to its toughest game at the College Championships.
Dan Silverstein and Evan Magsig (Cal)
The narrative surrounding Ursa Major going into the season was that they were going to take a significant step back from their quarterfinals run in 2022. They crushed our expectations, finishing tied for ninth place at Nationals and coming close to toppling Vermont in prequarters, forcing Chill to break to win on universe. Dan Silverstein continues to show he can lead teams to success with his plug-and-play approach and develops players into true superstars. Adding a brilliant defensive mind in Evan Magsig also allowed for a segregation of duties between the two coaches and created a more evenly distributed stream of feedback for the offensive and defensive units.